what nevermind means to me

“Mom, I’m ready to checkout.”

“Huh?” I was engrossed in the August issue of Spin.

“Come on, Mom. Let’s go!”

We bypassed self-checkout and waited in line at the front desk. A strategic move on my part to garner a few more minutes.

“Do I have to give it back?”

The librarian shrugged. There’s always next week.

But the next week it was missing. The week after that too. Quite sure someone pilfered it. Slipped it into a briefcase or trench coat. Snuck it by the sensors.

I inquired at the front desk. They have no way of tracking periodicals. Oh, well. Nevermind.

Then this week, it miraculously reappeared in its rightful place between Southwest Art and The Sporting News. I snagged it and held it close. Snapped iPhone photos on silent mode so my clicking would go undetected.

August 2011. Spin. Special Issue. The 20th Anniversary of the Album That Changed Everything. What Nevermind Means Now.

august 2011 spin

There on the cover was poor Kurt Cobain in cutoff jeans and no shirt. Suspended underwater. Scruffy beard. Floating mane. Devoid of air.

“Most drummers write beats,” said Thursday’s vocalist Geoff Rickly in Spin. “Dave Grohl wrote riffs.”

Nevermind was the first entire album of my generation that didn’t feel like it was on loan from the generation just before us,” said Sloane Crosley, author of I Was Told There’d Be Cake.

“Even on the first listen, the song (Smells Like Teen Spirit) carried with it a strange nostalgia,” said Meghan O’Rourke, author of The Long Goodbye. “What made Nevermind iconic had a lot to do with Cobain’s own self-consciousness.”

Musician Jack Davey explained it logically as teenagers rebelling against his laundry list of oppressions from the 80s.

In an article by Ed Masley from The Arizona Republic online, managing editor of MTV Hive Jessica Robertson attributed it to obliteration of the nuclear family. Kids being isolated without ways to connect.

“Nirvana came on their TV and there was this anthem for them. This entire movement was spawned in that one moment, because suddenly people had a home and a community,” said Robertson.

So what does Nevermind mean to you, if anything?

I was 20 years old and in college when the album was released on September 24, 1991. Rumor was a boy named Knox (what a cool name) introduced Nevermind to the frat house where my sorority sisters and I congregated. I’d never heard anything like it.

One morning after class, I meandered through frat court on my way back to my sorority house. It was autumn in Chapel Hill—sunny, quiet, magical.

Then as if on cue, Smells Like Teen Spirit blasted out from said frat house, filling the space and time.

Nevermind is a contradiction. An angry, painful, determined, come-close-as-I-push-you-away, I-have-a-chip-on-my shoulder-yeah-you-put-it-there, let’s-celebrate-for-tomorrow-we-die rallying cry.

I was born in 1970. Smack dab in the epicenter of Gen X. The 13th generation as theorized by Neil Howe and Bill Strauss. The unlucky. The unwanted. The Johnny-come-lately middle child after the Baby Boomers but before the Millennials. For many of us, life is a contradiction.

“Fortunately, Gen Xers are not starry-eyed idealists, but rather steely-eyed realists,” writes Lisa Chamberlain in her book Slackonomics: Generation X in the Age of Creative Destruction.

Early April, 1994. The news came on my car radio. I pulled to a stop at the top of a highway off-ramp in the middle of the night. Cobain had suicided.

“So that’s it?” I thought. “That’s how this ends?”

“I think it (Nevermind) has a lasting impact still of excitement and mystery,” said Meat Puppet’s Curt Kirkwood in The Arizona Republic article. “For something so accessible, it’s almost impenetrable.”

And that’s how it remains.

come as you are

I remember my affliction and my wandering,
the bitterness and the gall.
I well remember them,
and my soul is downcast within me.
Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:

Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed,
for His compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is Your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:19-23 NIV

Come As You Are unplugged.

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13 Responses to Nevermind

  1. Nirvana. Probably my greatest envy from your generation, Aimee. I was only 3 when Nevermind came out, yet we all listened to it throughout high school – perhaps the feelings don’t change from generation to generation as wildly as we, the younger ones tend to imagine. What I truly envy about it though is that you guys had Nirvana, Metallica and Red Hot Chili Peppers first-hand. We still listened to these same bands… and really all “we came up with” was the fad of pop punk – which I do like, but I don’t think even 20 years’ of marinating will make it quite the same as any of the previous generations of music were, from Beatles to Nirvana.

    I’m so young, I only listen to hand-me-down music! :)

    • CN, how old are you?! In my mind, I imagined you closer to my age… Sheesh! Got that wrong. Perhaps you’re an old soul in a young body…one who listens to really cool music btw :).

      Your generation has some great music too. For example–I know he’s a pop tart and probably a womanizer, but–John Mayer is a tremendous talent.

      PS: I love your use of the phrase “marinating.” The chef shines through. And I hope you will come back, even though I’m old, old, old…

      • Hehehe… I’m shamelessly 23!
        Though you are right, we still have talented singers and good music, it’s just a lot more fragmented. There’s no strict “mainstream” anymore, and a lot of people pigeonhole themselves to one genre: be it R&B, dance, trance, metal or pop rock. No time for bands to make it as big as Nirvana or my ever-favorite Queen.
        Good music needs to marinate. If 10, 15, 20 years later it’s still good, still tasty and still has a meaning, then it’s probably a keeper. (So does everything else good, from books through friendships and tri-tip.)

      • Tri-tip is a certain cut of beef; mostly unknown outside of the West Coast, which is a shame. It’s near the bottom sirloin, but a smaller, triangular muscle – amazing flavor, nice texture and a fragment of the price usually, you just need to cut it diagonal rather than straight for nice, clean-cut slices. I usually marinate it in beer, then just slap it on the BBQ and forget about the whole cooking thing for a while… Then just add a roasted potato or potato salad and a beer. :) Makes great sandwiches with barbecue sauce, too. Perhaps a butcher shop can turn one up even in MO?

  2. Joy

    Oh boy. Yes, Aimee, this here is the good stuff. I was a freshman in college when this album made it’s debut. You know, while in highschool I listened to great music – it was mainly the classics, bands from when I was 3 (like Chef Nusy), the “grunge” days though, they blew my mind. I have a post similar to this – go figure –
    earlier this month. Well, kind of. I’m gonna throw some of the others out there, Smashing Pumpkins, Pearl Jam, Weezer, Ween, oh glory daze. Good times.

    • Wow, Joy. I’ll have to go back and read your earlier posts. I think it’s top of mind right now bc of the 20 yr anniversary of the release of Nevermind, but what do I know? Maybe we’re all just feeling a bit nostalgic…
      My friends and I LOVED Pearl Jam. One of my roommates had Ten and we nearly wore that CD out. Oh glory daze indeed!

    • Joy, if you get a chance and if you’re following comments and even see this, will you send me the links to your past post on this? Thanks!

  3. Amy Howard

    We went to Seattle last May, and went to the Experience Music Project…most of it is dedicated to Nirvana, with a little Jimmy Hendrix mixed in…very cool…and I remember Knox! Didn’t know he was the Nirvana connection at the Frat!

    • Hey, Amy. I’ve not been to Seattle yet, but I want to visit. And about Knox…that was the rumor I remember. Two problems with that statement: first it was a rumor and second it’s from my memory–not the most dependable sources! :) Thanks for reading. Hope your clan is well.